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Holder supports improved voting access for American Indians

BISMARCK — Just days after speaking at a tribal college here, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday announced a Justice Department effort to improve voting access for American Indians and Alaska Natives, a plan welcomed by U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

Holder announced in his weekly video message that the Justice Department would begin consulting with tribal authorities about the concept of requiring state and local election administrators whose territory includes tribal lands to place at least one polling site in a location chosen by the tribal government.

Holder said the plan confronts a range of factors contributing to reduced voter access among tribal members, including inaccessible polling places, English-only ballots and “precinct realignment” practices that try to combine geographically isolated native communities.

“These conditions are not only unacceptable, they’re outrageous,” said Holder, who last Thursday delivered the keynote address at a conference at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck.

Heitkamp said Holder “put forth real solutions to make sure equality extends to our reservations.” She noted that last month she helped introduce the Native Voting Rights Act of 2014 in the Senate, which also would take several steps to improve voter access for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

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